Writing up a PhD – The final straight?

Hand typing at a keyboard

Tapping away

This week I ran a workshop for research students on the topic or writing up the thesis. I remember my own journey well and how exhausting it all seemed. I, probably like many other research students, did not relish the prospect of turning my research into a well crafted piece of writing so I procrastinated.. a lot! Much of my written work was completed in a matter of weeks right at the end only because I was given an immovable deadline, just what the doctor ordered for a classic last minute type of person.

I set out to try and help research students understand that it doesn’t (and probably never will) feel comfortable to approach such a seemingly daunting task as producing a thesis and I set about imparting as much wisdom, hints, and tips on writing as I could. This has led to this particular workshop being quite content heavy as it has been added to over the years (so any thoughts on streamlining the content will be appreciated!) incorporating bits and pieces from the Vitae Resources repository as well as nuggets collected from far and wide.

Two things I think are important about writing a thesis:-

  1. Writing should be thought of as being integral to the research, not as a add on activity
  2. The purpose of the written thesis is to convince the examiners that you meet the criteria for the award of doctorate – so clarity is important!

Here’s the slides.

Further resources

Throughout the session I made reference to a number of blog posts which I think are worth highlighting here:

The Thesis Whisperer – Edited by Dr Inger Mewburn; this is an excellent resource for folks navigating their way through a doctorate).


Patter – Professor Pat Thomson‘s blog – This has to be one of the best places to read up on the many challenges of academic writing.

There are some great hints and tips in the postgrad researcher section of the Vitae website on the topic of completing your doctorate that are well worth the time to read.
Finally, if you have any comments or advice about writing up then I’d love to hear them.

Hello, it’s been a while…

I suppose this blog entry really is a note addressed to self. It’s been a while since you’ve written anything and this is not good. You must remind yourself to write about the following as soon as you can:

  1. “How to win funds & influence people”  – a workshop that I ran a few weeks back (before Easter) that serves as an introduction to applying for research funding.
  2. “Research in Context” [insert link here when you’ve done it] a pilot workshop developed by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).
  3. reSEARCH Careers [insert link here when you’ve done it] – a regional event organised by the SW& Wales hub of Vitae that brought employers and researchers together. 
  4. The UWE Graduate School launch

It’s this last one that has kept me extremely busy of late, organising, editing, recording, did I mention organising….

Anyway, here’s some videos that show what I’ve been upto…

10 Reasons to do a doctorate

The animation was by an alumni of the UWE MA Animation course, David Hutchinson. I captured the views of the research students and did the audio editing/transcriptions.

We didn’t want to leave out the supervisors in this so here’s…

10 Reasons to be a doctoral supervisor

Again, animation by David Hutchinson and I chased down supervisors to capture their views. It was a bit of an ambush…!

and lastly, here’s another bit of video – this time some good ol’ fashioned straight talking about the new UWE Graduate School..


I’m still very busy because the launch event is on Tuesday and there is much left to do… but I promise (myself) that I will write the entries above.

PhD – The Movie. Coming soon to a university near you?

A few weeks ago I spied an announcement from the makers of the “Piled Higher and Deeper” comic strip that they had gone and made a film. Now this has me quite excited because, although the protagonists of this comic strip are set in the U.S., the shenanigans portrayed translate very well to the UK experience of being a doctoral student. The trailer is enticing…

So here’s the deal. I would very much like to be able to screen the PhD movie when it comes out (from 15 September 2011) at UWE, Bristol. We’ve got a cinema after all! I have tentatively signed up as being an interested party and now have been told an approximate cost to screen it (about US$500). But now I need to build a case for spending that amount.

So to you dear research students, how can I convince the budget holders that holding a film night is a good use of our development funds? How can I make it a worthwhile event? Tie in with a ‘welcome to UWE’ event? 

Thoughts, suggestions & comments welcome. I’m on a mission…